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Thursday, September 30, 2010

September 13 & 14, 2020: Erromango, Vanuatu - A Garden of Eden Without the Serpent

We had a really rough motor sail for the first 6 of the 8-¾ hours trip from Tanna up to Erromango. And we didn't even catch a fish for the effort. Fortunately, conditions settled down for the final leg of the journey and we were able to thoroughly enjoy a lovely sail into Dillons Bay at Erromango. We were the only two boats in the anchorage. Immediately, small outriggers began to drift our way. They were filled with village children coming by to have a look at the visitors. They quite boldly drifted right up next to Destiny and although they seemed adventurous and gutsy to us, when we attempted to talk to them we found them terribly shy. They enjoyed sitting and watching us while drifting around the entire boat, I guess to have a good look. We smiled our brightest most welcoming smiles and said "Hello" in our friendliest voices, yet they just sat looking at us. They eventually drifted over to have a look at Moasi.

We were tired from the trip, but invited Ian and Julia over for sundowners. We indeed enjoyed a beautiful sunset while we munched and visited. Everyone wanted to call it an early night. Frank and I read for a bit. I finished my book and was in bed by 8:30 PM.

On Tuesday, we awoke to find a group of dolphins frolicking all around the boat. We enjoyed the show from our cockpit while having coffee. Then I popped below to make some banana muffins and kept hearing Frank in a one-way conversation outside. He later told me some locals had come out again for a look, and although he tried to chat with them, they just sat and looked at him. I'm sure he enjoyed being on stage while he had his coffee and muffin.

Late morning we hitched a ride with Ian and Julia into the village. Unfortunately, the Lonely Planet guide doesn't do Dillons Bay or the island of Erromango justice. Mostly from what I read about the place, they concentrated on this island's violent history - which certainly is full of murder and mayhem and lots and lots of cannibalism - and focused on the telling of Erromango's widespread devastation wrought by the 2004 cyclone. A very small paragraph was dedicated to Dillon's Bay.

We arrived at the shore and were greeted by several men, including a fellow named Jason who we were told is the adult son of the elder chief. A very nice man named David helped us secure the dinghy and then introduced himself to us as our guide. Jason gave us his personal blessing and asked us to follow David for a tour of their village. We were hugely impressed by this beautiful well-kept village of Dillon's Bay, which David explained is affectionately referred to as John Williams Bay. Mr. Williams brought had the Presbyterian faith to Dillons Bay in 1839; he was welcomed by the (then) chief and warned that the locals were hostile and that the missionaries should not venture far from their boat. Ignoring this good advice, John Williams went inland anyway and was murdered and eaten. After they killed him they laid him upon a rock to chip his outline onto the surface (isn't this what modern crime technicians do at murder scenes?). The outline can be seen even today. So from what I gathered of David's telling, in order to honor the missionary's sacrifice and to appeal to God for mercy and forgiveness of killing and eating him they made their village his namesake, and named the beautiful river after him, The William River, that runs from the mountain bringing them crystal clear drinking water which they also use for their crops, and for swimming and bathing.

During our walking tour we were greeted cheerfully and often by the men, women and children. Everyone appeared so happy. Everything is very tidy and well maintained. We visited the school (grades k-6) and met all of the children their teachers and the head mistress, Annie. Julia produced sheets of stickers and as we met the children we gave each of them a sticker, which they placed on their faces, arms and workbooks. They giggled and followed us about whispering and dancing around. We got as much a thrill from the visit as they did. At the end of our visit Annie walked over with bags of produce for us from the school's garden.

Next, David took us for a walking tour of the river and the farmlands. It is early springtime here, so the flowers were abundant as were the newborn chickens goats, cows and pigs. Butterflies flitted about, songbirds serenaded us and the rocky river gurgled past. We felt like we had landed in the Garden of Eden. It was a paradise! All around us the trees were bursting with fruit. The papaya (paw paw) trees were very large and overflowing with their bounty. The colors of the plants and flowers were stunning. The worst part of this entire experience was that I did not bring my camera.

He took us next over to show us his planned site for a future yacht club. It is currently under construction and is probably going to be the most beautiful yacht club in the south pacific. We were wishing we could revisit Dillon's Bay after its completion. He ended out little tour by handing us a basket as large as a suitcase overflowing with paw-paws and local citrus fruit. We took him out to the boats where I loaded him up with bags full of golf caps and clothing for his village and some bandages and medicines for the clinic. Wow, what a great little piece of paradise we had found there.

After Ian took David back to the village we all weighed anchor intending to go to the northern-most anchorage of Erromango, some 3 hours up the coast, have lunch and then take a long rest so that we could depart around midnight for Port Vila.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

September 10-12, 2010; Enjoying Tanna's Port Resolution

We fully recovered from our recent early morning activities by sleeping in until 8 :00 AM on Friday. Then we walked over to the beautiful white sand beach on the other side of the peninsula where there are a few "backpacker" style resorts. The beaches in this bay are black sand and are beautiful but the ashy sand is very difficult to get out of clothes and skin. In fact each time we go to shore, we land on a black beach, hike up a steep black ash/sand hill and walk along a black ash path to wherever we are heading. The village dirt is black ash. The locals are quite accustomed to it and the children comfortable playing in it, but each time we return to the dinghy we are covered in it and our feet seem to attract globs of black mud as if magnetic. After a few days you begin not to even notice it, but each time we return to the boat we seriously wash off as soon as we hit the stern's sugar scoop, before even going on deck.

Our visit to the white sand beach was very pleasant, and the sparking aquamarine water so inviting and yet I chose not to swim. I'd worn a swimsuit beneath my shorts and shirt and had planned to swim but apparently although there were holiday bungalows on this side, we were still in an area of express modesty when it comes to baring bodies, even in a one-piece swimsuit. All other female visitors at the beach were frolicking fully clothed in the water. Although it was quite hot and I was practically drooling over the opportunity to hit the water, I did not want to get all of my clothes wet. I had visions of walking back to through the black ash and sand village dripping wet and ending up back at the dinghy looking like one of the "mud" people. So Julia and I chose a nice shady spot in the sand to sit and chat. Frank was trying to heal a newly opened wound - a skin burn from a slide across the deck he took while filleting our fish and getting hit with a slammer of a wave - so he had to keep the sore covered and dry. He chose to sit and have a beer while we all watched Ian have a nice long swim.

On the way back to the village I took some goodies to the locals and in return Miriam (Stanley's sister) gave me a couple of Paw Paw (papayas). I told her that I wanted to bring some things to them but didn't know what they needed, i.e., clothing, rice, flour, etc. She pulled me aside and said, "I want a cake. Will you make me a cake?" Of all the things she could have asked for she wanted a cake! Within minutes, Julia and another lady, Sofia both told me that Miriam had also asked them to bake her a cake. So I asked Miriam if it was for a celebration or for someone's birthday. She told me no, it was for her. I didn't quite know what to make of that and so I agreed. As I was walking away I was told by two other cruisers that they were making cakes for Miriam. What on earth? Well, I was down to one cake mix which is Frank's favorite and not wanting to prepare one from scratch I made a decision not to make her a cake. I baked chocolate chip cookies instead, and put together a little care package for her and the rest of her family that included colored pencils, notebooks and stickers for the children, clothes for the ladies, packages of pens for the school and prints of the pictures we'd taken at their village and at the Circumcision Ceremony.

I had spent the better part of our Saturday morning baking the cookies and printing those pictures (our photo printer is very slow). We went to shore after lunch intending to drop off the goods and then meet Ian and Julia at the yacht club afterward. We took the bundle over to Miriam and when I presented her with the large bag full of cookies she could not hide her disappointment that it was not a cake. For a brief moment I felt the urge to snatch them back because we would have loved to have kept those home made cookies for ourselves, but I smiled and told her I thought since so many others were making cakes I wanted to do something special and different for her. Then I showed her the pictures. The ladies and the children all gathered round excitedly wanting to see them. They were absolutely thrilled! Because I had my camera with me they all posed and asked me to take their pictures and then one of the young mothers asked me to take her camera back to the boat and print some of her pictures for them. Their reactions and smiles made the hours of printing worthwhile. As I was walking away, she ran out to me and presented me with a pretty bag that she had woven.

We returned to the boat that evening and just as I was about to go down to start dinner, a local man paddled over in his outrigger asking if we wanted to buy a lobster. We told him we didn't' have many Vatu left but that we could trade for the lobster. He settled for a t-shirt and two pair of Frank's old shorts. The lobster he presented us was a monster - I wish I'd taken a photo - and was fully cooked. We had previously discovered there is a boiling hot spring at the water's edge at the back of this bay that emits enough steam to cook food, and that is where a lot of the locals do their cooking. This lobster was steamed there. It was large enough to feed us both and was so sweet, tender and delicious we finished every morsel, leaving us moaning that we were stuffed like pigs! Man that was a good trade.
I spent the entire morning on Sunday printing more pictures and making photo CD's and a DVD of the video shots we had been taking of the activities at Tanna. After lunch we ran those in to distribute to various grateful recipients, and then we returned to Destiny to plan our next stop. We agreed with "Moasi" to leave at 6:00 AM, Monday, for Erromango, Vanuatu. Frank and I settled in for a very early dinner and a movie (Salt with Angelina Jolie). Then we both fell asleep reading "Shantaram".

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Friday, September 10, 2010

September 9th - Circumcision Ceremony and Kastom Dancing at Tanna

Getting solid information from any ni-Vanuatuan is an art form, one that we have not mastered. For instance: On Tuesday, Stanley told us there is a Kastom Ceremony in one of the villages Thursday, and that he would be busy with that all day. We asked him if we could attend, and he said "OK". We asked what it was for and his response was ambiguous. Then when we arrived on shore Wed., to go to the volcano we asked him again about the ceremony and his response was that if we wanted to go we would have to be at the village at 4:30 AM in order to walk for an hour and a half, to get to the village hosting the ceremony, in time for the 6 AM start. Then in the same sentence he said that if we want a ride to the village we should be on shore at 6 AM. We asked him what they were celebrating and again his response was very vague. We began to get the impression that he was not encouraging our attendance at this thing. Then as we were driving up to the volcano I asked David about the event. He informed us it is a celebration for the circumcision of the boys passing from childhood into manhood. We had read in the Lonely Planet guide that this very special ritual was brought to the "savages" by missionaries, along with other traditions such as NOT eating man and abolishing polygamy. When we inquired about the age of the boys we were given various responses. Some said between the ages of 10-11, and others said ages between 8-9. The Lonely Planet guide states it is for ages 10-12. In any event it (supposedly) only occurs during August and/or September each year. We asked around what to bring and how to dress and if women were allowed. We did not receive the same answer twice from any of three or four locals. They did somewhat imply that there would be feasting, dancing and kava drinking and the like. I suspect that they do not understand us anymore than we understand them when trying to communicate, so we used our best guess.

We arrived on shore promptly at 6:00 AM, bringing bottles of water, hats, sunscreen, cameras and a towel on which to sit. Truly we had no idea what was going on. When we arrived in the host-village it was alive with preparations for the ceremony. I met some Australian volunteers from the Seventh Day Adventist Church who are working at the Port Resolution hospital. They gave me a little more information. I wish I'd met them the day before. We discovered that we were to have brought gifts for the honorees, but of course we did not know this nor did we know how many boys were being initiated. The feasting, dancing and kava-drinking were shared only among the families of the boys and the host village. We could attend but only as observers - we were to remain silent and unseen. We stuck out of course like sore thumbs. We also soon discovered that we were way early for the event. It didn't really begin until 10 or 11:00, and was due to go all day and into the night. The circumcisions had taken place 5 weeks ago. The ceremony is performed at the Nakamal (men's club) only in the presence of men. The actual surgery is carried out by the local medicine man with a knife fashioned from bamboo. The boys are then isolated from village and family in the Nakamal to heal for 5 weeks and may only be visited by a select group of elders during this period. When they emerge from isolation they are treated as men from that day forward. This ceremony is all about celebration of their manhood.

Enough "background". Here is what happened as we saw it. There is a large, open circular staging area, surrounded by crude fencing, lean-tos and small huts where the floor is bare black earth. In the middle are two large piles of banana leaves that we discover are earthen ovens, which have been cooking for a long while. As we sit and watch, we hear violent squealing - I mean VIOLENT - from the periphery. We soon discover this is the sound a pig makes when he is being literally hog-tied to a pole. We watch men wrapped in sarongs - representing the two families who live in this village, one in vivid purple print and the other in a bright green print - parading by, carrying a pole over their shoulders with a giant screeching pig swaying from underneath. This happened 4 times. Then entered hoards of women and children decorated from head to toe in face paint, feathers, Christmas garland, beautiful fabrics, colorful grass skirts, and with baskets hanging from them; walking past us swaying as if to some distant music. Many more people arrived carrying artfully woven baskets, mats and bags, bolts of fabric and large loads of food in hand-woven banana leaf baskets.

In the middle of the clearing off to the side of the two large "ovens", men set about creating piles on the ground, beginning with the baskets of vegetables and fruits, then layering them with yards of colorful fabrics, mats and baskets and then topped them off with tall kava plants and stalks of sugarcane. They did this while other men attended to the two "ovens" in the middle where they heaped smoked quarters of beef and pig and then covered those in leaves and continued to stack them with greater numbers of beautiful fabrics, foods, baskets, mats and woven bags. They were topped with the sugarcane and then surrounded by large bushes of kava. Standing "trees" of sugarcane were propped beside these two and from them were hung long bolts of fabric that swayed in the breeze. Next, one of the pigs on a pole was carried in and laid on the ground between the two "ovens". Before we could tear our eyes away, a man arrived with a large club, which he used to whack the pig on the bridge of his snout. It was over quickly as the pig shuddered and died. Two more pigs were brought out on poles and were placed next to the dead one but were left alive. As they lay there they were covered in woven mats and kava plants and sugarcane stalks. They writhed and squealed until they must have passed out from the exertion. We soon learned that these two special piles were for the grandfathers of the families whose first-born sons had been circumcised in this lot. Lucky granddads!

More smaller piles were erected similar to the ones that were intended for the grandfathers, but without the cooked foods and the smoked meats. It looked as though there were more than 6 mountains of goodies so we got lost and confused at this point, even though locals tried to explain the meanings to us in their broken English. One of the piles was decorated by a freshly clubbed steer and another by a freshly clubbed pig. Significance was lost on us. Apparently some piles were for families of the boys and others were from the families to the host village. That's what we'll go with anyway. When this was finished the two most decorated ladies of all parlayed out from opposite sides of the clearing, sprinkling the piles with perfume as they swayed to and fro with similarly embellished women trailing behind. They drifted and swayed amongst the piles seemingly blessing them or anointing them but we really do not know what this meant. Finally a chief stepped out into the clearing and said a lot of impressive sounding words to the crowd followed by the ethereal sound of music drifting in from outside the compound. It may have been a flute or a shell being played to announce the arrival of the boys who were now men.

They approached through a decorated archway surrounded by a dozen or so ornamented boys and men, and were hidden from view until formally presented to the chief and then escorted to their awaiting, wailing mothers and grandmothers. Once the women greeted them they seated them onto special mats where they were heaped with gifts from family and treated like royalty. Then the presentation of gifts from all others began. A steady stream of guests paraded by, bending and adoring the young men, presenting them with all sorts of gifts from food to tools and clothing.

There was another "announcement" and then the men circled up to begin the Kastom dancing and singing to the rhythm of hand made instruments and drums. The women encircled the dancing men, bouncing up and down along the outside, clapping and smiling. This went on for 45 minutes to an hour. Suddenly it all ended. The colorful people dispersed. The piles were quickly disassembled and distributed to various pockets of villagers. They all adjourned to feast, leaving us mulling around wondering what to do next. After their feast, the men would adjourn to the Nakamal to drink kava and then they would all feast again and dance and drink kava all night. Frank and I opted to walk back to the village while the others piled into the truck. We accompanied a young English woman named Cheryl who was staying at the bungalows adjacent to "our" village.

We enjoyed the beautiful walk and stopped to take photos along the way. One particularly interesting resort boasted a treetop accommodation at Shark's Bay. It was splendiferous! I would like to have stayed there - high up in a banyan tree it looked like a cottage out of a fairy tale. We walked the beach and then took a quick gander at the Port Resolution Yacht Club before returning to Destiny where we reflected on our day. This event is another of those "once in a lifetime" opportunities. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. We sure hope our pictures turn out nicely.

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sept 8, 2010 - Mount Yasur Volcano (Tanna, Vanuatu) The Hike of a Lifetime!

On Tuesday we just took it easy - I washed laundry while Frank checked his patchwork on the dinghy, and then later we were invited to "Moasi" for dinner.

Wednesday, Frank and Ian went to shore to burn our rubbish - big fun there. Then in the late afternoon the four of us went into the village to meet our driver, David, for the trek to Mt. Yasur.

Mount Yasur is an active volcano which, when it's activity is at level 1 or 2 visitors can hike up to it's rim. When, however it reaches level 3-4 the park closes for obvious safety reasons because it is very dangerous to be anywhere near. Just last month our friends Jim and Martha on "Special Blend" were anchored in Port Resolution when the volcano erupted causing mass evacuations. They were advised to leave the anchorage immediately. Yasur was at level 4 during that time. So, yes there actually is a danger here, but fortunately for us, it is presently downgraded to level 2.

David drove us across the ash field right up to the railed walkway that began the steep ascent to the rim, approx 150 meters. It was still daytime when we arrived. As we were making the walk upward, we could feel rumbling and hear what sounded like a freight train roaring down a track toward us. The hair on my arms stood on end and my heart raced with excitement. I couldn't wait to get up there. I think Frank was just as excited but he contained his emotions a little better than I could. Are we crazy?

We arrived at the top of the pathway and followed the rim around to a fairly high area that was designated as a safe observation point. Frank and I stepped as close to the edge as was permitted and peered over into what I can believe the ancient people thought was a gateway into Hell. The pit below us coughed up whiffs and rolling bellows of black smoke. It rumbled, it roared and it spewed fiery magma high up into the air. Sometimes the belch and roar came so suddenly and so loudly that it startled us and caused us to jolt in surprise. As the sun began to set the fire spewing upward became much more fiercely red and it seemed the eruptions came more frequently and more violently. I just couldn't get enough. I was mesmerized by the beauty and violence of this phenomenon. Frank took a few video clips and we both took loads of snapshots. After a couple of hours our eyes were stinging with ash and our lungs were screaming for fresh air as we breathed in the sooty, sulfuric smoke. I was thinking I could have stayed at least another hour just watching in thrilled horror at this once in a lifetime spectacle, and as I was standing there locked in my musings, Julia announced, "Right then, I'm bored. Can we leave now? It's getting a bit cold up here". That did it. We all agreed it was time to go, and besides we were all beginning to feel pretty well soot-covered anyway.

That is an experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. We feel tremendously fortunate to have had the opportunity to go up that volcano. And to think, Captain Cook was denied this same privilege, some 236 years ago and Old Yasur is still going strong.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September 6, 2010 - Clearing into Tanna and a long bumpy ride to get there!

We were due on shore at 7 AM to catch our ride into Lenakel where yachts must go on this island to clear in to the country of Vanuatu. Because our dinghy has a flat, Ian and Julia had agreed to give us a lift into shore at 6:30. Frank wanted to run the generator for an hour before we left the boat, so we set the alarm for 5:15 AM. We awoke with plenty of time to enjoy a pot of coffee, grab a cereal bar and pack our backpacks for the trip into town. By 6:15 we hadn't seen any movement aboard Moasi, so Frank told me to hail them on the VHF to make sure they were up. I did that, and roused a very sleepy Julia who informed me it was only 5:15 AM. Well damn! We had forgotten to set our clocks to Vanuatu time. We could have slept for another hour. We were too jazzed on caffeine to go back to bed by now so we read Shantaram until they came for us.

We were joined on shore by an Australian couple (S/V Sunboy) and an Austrian couple (catamaran, Felix). We took the short hike up a hill to the little village to await our transport, which eventually arrived in the form of a small 4-WD pickup truck with a high cage over the bed. The truckbed sides were lined with 2x8 boards that served as passenger seating around the interior. Now the meaning of our friends' warning to "be sure to bring seat cushions" hit home. Kathi and Jeff on s/v Bold Spirit had checked in at Tanna last month and sent us an email full of ambiguous warnings and tidbits of info. I think they didn't want to ruin the total experience for us so they left a little to our imaginations. Julia and I were graced with the opportunity to ride in the cab with David our ni-Vanuatu driver. Frank piled into the back with Ian, the other 4 yachties and Stanley, the Goodwill Ambassador for Port Resolution. Just before we took off 4 or 5 locals hopped in. We were crammed like sardines, and although I had a seat up front it was like riding in a tin can with faux cushions. My hipbone was pressed into the metal frame of the seat, and as we bumped along I felt metal grating bone with intensifying effect. I couldn't imagine what the ones in the back of the truck were feeling. For just over 2 ½ hours, we drove the crude rode into Lenakel. It didn't really bother any of us because the scenery and sights along the way were well worth the pain of the ride and the $4,000 VT per couple: a bargain at any price. One of the guys likened it to getting beaten in prison in front of a window full of bars with a fantastic view! Parts of the road were washed out, leaving just enough room for the truck to creep past a sheer drop. We drove through lush vegetation, past lovely villages and then came to the ash plane of Mt. Yasur. It was desolately beautiful. This side of the volcano looked like a gray, barren sand-covered mountain. We could see coughs of smoky vapor puffing out the top. It was captivating.

Eventually we arrived in town, where our first stop was the bank. There is only one bank. The Lonely Planet guide advised that there are no ATM's on the island therefore; we had taken $500 USD to exchange. Ian and Julia brought their Visa card. No go. No credit cards either. So we shared our Vatu's with them. Clearing in was a long process, taking several hours. Immigration and Customs were housed in the same building, and at each agency the officials were very friendly and helpful. The villagers walking by would wave frantically at us and throw huge smiles our way, shouting "Allo!" They loved seeing white faces in their midst. The ladies all wear very colorful Mother Hubbard dresses, while the children and men run around in western-style t-shirts and shorts. We bought hot fresh bread at the bakery, and munched on it as we walked around town while awaiting the quarantine officer's arrival. They didn't seem too concerned about us walking about before getting cleared by "Quarantine". Already, I loved this little island. The people here are naturally friendly and happy. Mostly, they just wanted to look at us. It is the same in the anchorage - villagers will paddle out to the boats and just sit watching us. They mean no harm; they are simply intrigued by the white people on the boats. I never gave it much thought, but we don't' recall meeting any black cruisers since leaving the USA. Wonder why?
For the ride home, I opted to sit in the back so I could get the total experience. Now I have bruises all over my body to match the ones on my face! I discovered that the cage around the pick-up was intended for a tarp when the rains come, but is also used for hand-holds and the occasional brace for standing when the sitting gets too rough.
Just prior to leaving Lenakel, Stanley announced that he and the lads had a few stops to make on the way back to Port Resolution. The first stop was a local market just outside the largest grocery store, which by the way is smaller than some of our pantries back home. They came out carrying several loaves of bread a 5-kilo block of cheese, and a case of beer. Then they grabbed several large bundles of kava and some greens from the market. Off we went!
During the ride back we made half a dozen stops at various roadside markets where we all had a chance to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables from the communal farms. Cheap too! For instance I bought a large bouquet of broccoli for 100 VT's (approx $1.10). The lads continued to purchase bundles of kava at each market. And making stops along the way for deliveries to villages of the breads, beer and greens. It is quite a system of "community" they have here. Each village helps the other in some way. And at each and every stop, the children would go wild, waving and shouting "Allo!" I took several photos and then showed them to the children, eliciting giggles and laughter and big-eyed surprise with hands over mouths. I wish I could have printed them out on the spot for those kids.
We arrived back at Port Resolution at nearly 4:00, bone weary but happy. We each popped a mouthful of Advil and settled in for a bountiful dinner of fresh Mahi Mahi, green salad and hot bread.

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010 - The Home Stretch and Arrival at Tanna, Vanuatu

The honeymoon is over. We knew the easy three days was too good to be true, and I guess so did Neptune. It seemed last evening and into the night he raised his trident high, rallying forth the winds and then striking the seas declaring it time to let the good times roll! The seas bucked Destiny about seeming to express anger at our intrusion, tossing us like a rag doll. The winds were back up to 25+ knots and howling through our rigging and mast. We were in a bit of a pickle because we had no choice but to slow this mustang down. We could have run with it and made a much smoother ride for ourselves but we simply could not risk a nighttime approach into Tanna, hence we reefed in the main, furled the headsail and set the stay sail (storm gib) and rode the rollercoaster into the night. If you like amusement park rides, you would have loved this one. Topside it wasn't so bad, but trying to sleep below was agony. Thank goodness it was for only one night.

We arrived as planned at the entrance to Port Resolution at 7:30 AM. In 1774, Captain James Cook upon approaching the island of Tanna noticed a great glow coming from the island. He entered this bay to investigate. The glow of course was fiery Mount Yasur, but the Islanders would not let him approach the volcano that they considered "tabu", sacred/hallowed ground. So he contented to name the bay, Port Resolution, after his boat, the HMS Resolution.

We had tried to get here last year, but it just didn't happen. We are very pleased to be here now and look forward to visiting as much of the island as possible. Our friends who have preceded us here say it is their favorite island in Vanuatu

Tanna has a fascinating history and apparently a lot to offer tourists, including a trip up the volcano, which is no longer "tabu" except during special times of the year. "Yasur" in local Tannese means "Old Man" and is believed to be the originator of the universe by the indigenous locals. It is believed that after death, their spirits are returned to the volcano. Some of them must be angry spirits because it sure is still going strong after all these years.
Since it is Sunday, we cannot clear in to the country until tomorrow and may not go ashore until then. We thought we'd set the anchor and then hit the sack, but Frank wanted to rinse the boat down before the salt baked in, and I decided to cook us a formidable breakfast. Then of course after the tossing we took I had to tidy up inside and he got busy outside trying to find the leak in "dinghy". Locals began to drift by in their little dugout outrigger canoes either to investigate the new arrivals or to show us their fine bananas and coconuts for which we could trade batteries, clothing or other goods. Then Stanley from the yacht club stopped by to arrange our transportation into town tomorrow for clearance. We will leave the boat a 6:30 AM. We understand it is about a 2-3 hour ride in a pickup truck and that we are to bring our own seat cushion. This should be fun!

It's 5 PM. We never got our naps, but plan to sleep well tonight because we have to get up early. Oh, and update on my face smash ordeal: I've managed to get by with just a few cuts on my nose and seem to have somewhat quelled the swelling. There is just a bit of bruising across my nose, and it may be spreading to my right eye but it's hard to tell just yet. My friend Julia gave me some homeopathic pills that may help. Everyone thinks my nose is broken but somehow I don't think so.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010, Day 3, Fiji to Vanuatu

We are now on day 3 of the passage; it is Saturday, September 4th. Both of us are reading the novel, Shantaram, which is the hottest book going in this part of the globe. Neither of us seems to be able to put our copy down. We have maintained radio contact with Moasi on a regular basis, during which Ian repeatedly asks Frank if he has caught any fish yet, Frank won't admit that he doesn't want to put the book down to go rig the fishing line. At one point I mentioned to him that it is so calm, we may as well throw a line in while the conditions are in our favor. We had just bought new gear before leaving Lautoka so it all still needed to be set up, and that is definitely a "blue" job. He finally acquiesced (probably to shut me up). As we were having this conversation I was looking out the back and noticed that our dinghy looks a bit wrinkled at the rear quarter panel on the port side. At closer inspection, it wasn't just a bit flat - it looked as deflated as a raisin. We surmised that it must have been impaled on a rock or one of the rusty pipes at the wharf in Lautoka. We'll have to break out the repair kit when we arrive in Tanna.

We have been blessed with fair winds and following seas for this entire crossing so far. And except for one little "hiccup" it has been a splendid 3-day sail. As is the case any time at sea there will be the occasional "rogue wave" - a quite large wave that is out of synch with the others. When a yacht gets hit with one it sounds like a cannon boom against the hull and the boat is generally knocked catawampus for an eerie moment or so. I was just going into the head when a rogue struck Destiny. It threw me, face first into the overhang of the outer bulkhead, smashing my face into the cabinet and causing loud crashing sounds all about me. It took a few minutes for my head to clear and then I realized I am going to have a heck of a shiner and possibly a busted nose. I feebly called for Frank to bring me a soft ice pack from the freezer. He took one look at me and said, "Oh no! You are already turning black and blue". I quickly downed 2 strong anti-inflammatory tablets and then laid down with my face covered with the ice pack for a very long time until it was frozen and numb. Then I put the pack back into the freezer to re-freeze and repeated the process. That is all I can do for it, except send up a little prayer that no damage has been done other than a bit of swelling. My eyes are blurry, but that's probably just from the shock of impact. So far the bruising is barely visible. Those icepacks are a face-saver!

In between the re-freezing of my ice pack, Frank announced that we had hooked a fish. It was a beautiful 3-foot Mahi Mahi. Nice going Captain! I think now he is happy that he put the book down for a little while.
The winds are coming back up and the seas are building, as predicted on the GRIB files. We may be in for a rough ride this afternoon and into tonight, as the waves have tracked around and are hitting more on the beam. I have a pounding headache so I think I'll go lay down for a rest.

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Friday, September 3, 2010

September 2 and 3rd, 2010 Day 1 and 2; Passage from Fiji to Vanuatu

The most exciting event of our first day of the passage is that we had great sailing conditions. Destiny enjoyed a nice surf over 3-meter swells, and that combined with 25 - 30 knot winds on the beam makes for a fast sail. I managed to throw together a beef stroganoff for an early dinner and then we settled in for a beautiful star-filled night of 3-hour watches. The phosphorescence of the plankton threw out beautiful starry bursts from our wake making for a lovely first night out. We averaged speeds of 8-9 knots over that 24 hour period.
It would have been just perfect except I was having first day passage anxiety after having read a book Jeff and Jeri Lyn had given us titled, "Adrift". It details one man's survival after 76 days at sea adrift in a life raft after escaping his sinking sailboat following a collision with an unknown entity (a whale, a container? No one will ever know). I don't know why our friends keep giving us these disaster at sea books to read, and beyond that I don't know why I read them, particularly just before a passage. I do know that God is large and in charge and I pray that it is not our fate to star in our own disaster story.

On Friday, September 3rd, our second day out, Frank attempted to post our position report via the SSB, but it doesn't seem to want to talk to the laptop, so he tried the Iridium Sat Phone and was still unable to get Winlink to transmit the report. We don't know which part of our equipment is responsible for the problem, but Winlink just does not seem to be working properly. We eventually were able to get a Sailmail connection via the sat phone and were thrilled that we had received some messages. Frank and I treat these like candy - for some crazy reason the emails we get while on a passage just feel special. It's like opening Christmas mail for us, so he reads them and then saves them for me to read. Thank you to our friends and family who write to us! In case anyone reading this wants to email us but doesn't have the address, it is:

The stars continue their sky dance and the sailing is the type we dream of - hope it keeps up like this to Tanna.

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August 19-Sept 2 Back in Fiji and Goodbye, Fiji!

On our flight back to Fiji we formed a bond with our Air Pacific flight attendant, Sereana. When we told her that our sailboat was berthed at Port Denarau, she mentioned her partner is Crew on a yacht named SuRi that is also berthed there. This is the mega-yacht that Frank and I had observed partying it up in Whangaroa, NZ during our holiday stint up there, the one which the locals were speculating belonged to Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes. We received confirmation from Sereana that this is not so but that if we wished to see it she would arrange an invite for us. We wished. I gave her our card and our Fiji cell # when we left the plane.
We arrived in the dark at 5:30 AM, to a happily floating and well cared for Destiny. We hauled our bags across the dirt parking lot, over the soot covered walkways and down the dock, carefully wiping off all the grunge as we lifted them into the cockpit. We were systematically stowing everything as the sun slowly began its morning wake up yawn and stretch, casting beautiful mango, strawberry and lemon colored streaks across the sky from the horizon. It was going to be a beautiful day. We stopped unpacking long enough to enjoy the sunrise over a pot of coffee and then got back to work. Before long we were on the phone to marine vendors, trying to wrap up our business with them so that we could get a move on. All the while friends stopped by to welcome us back to Fiji. It felt good to be home. Keith and Christine from s/v Achates also stopped by for a quick "hello" on their way to deliver their Aussie friend Gwyn to the airport, giving us a chance to finally thank them in person for bringing our new generator pump up with them when they sailed from NZ. The docks began bristling back to life and we joined right in the gathering momentum as life at the port came to full swing. As is usually the case, some of our work got done while we were gone, but others figured since we would be away for a while they had plenty of time to get to Destiny's needs, meaning they had not got to Destiny's needs yet. So instead of leaving as planned on Friday, we stayed at the marina until Tuesday.
We had a good time at Denarau. We shopped and dined with Keith and Christine a couple of times, took some nice long walks over to the various resorts. We got the invite from Sereana to visit SuRi, whose name is derived from the first two letters of the owner's first names. They are Americans from Seattle who had the boat refitted in NZ just recently. It looked a lot nicer and much larger than it had when we saw it in December. It is quite impressive and has not only a very large crew who see to all the comforts of home, but a huge garage full of big boy toys complete with a helicopter, a hovercraft, a beautiful classic wood boat similar to an original Chris Craft, and many other very nice touches. We felt so small being just a few slips down in the same marina. Destiny seemed dwarfed by the many large yachts around her, reminding us that there is some big money out on the water and lots of it comes to Fiji.
On Tuesday, the 24th, we finally got away to Musket Cove intending to kick back for a few days before departing for Vanuatu. Frank had wanted to get going by Friday; I was hoping we could wait until Monday because I just did not want to leave Fiji. I love it here, and for some reason she and her people have nestled into a very special corner of my heart. Musket Cove was quiet and felt a little empty in spite of the fact that several boats remained in the anchorage. Everyone we know, except for Achates had either departed for Vanuatu weeks ago or was cruising elsewhere.
We fell back into our routine of long hikes in the early mornings (with Keith and Christine), followed by a trip to the bakery, then back on board to take care of whatever chores we had on our to-do list for that day. Then after lunch we would either read books by the pool or have a swim, before meeting our friends up at the island bar and have dinner. A couple of times we deviated from routine to play a game of "Qwirkle", otherwise we just took it easy and watched the weather for our "departure window". We had just about decided to leave on Friday when we received a message from Ian and Julia on Moasi, asking us to please wait for them. They were trying to get to Musket Cove in time to sail the passage to Vanuatu along with us. We agreed. They arrived on Sat. and because they'd never been to this resort we stayed until Tuesday to give them a chance to have some fun with us all. I was thrilled to have them as a buddy boat for the passage and doubly thrilled to get to spend a little more time with Keith and Christine at Musket Cove.
Tuesday, we got to have our final hike with our friends and then sailed over to Lautoka in the late afternoon. On Wed, we went into town to handle final provisioning and to clear Customs and Immigration, and then snuck around the corner to Saweni Bay to spend the night (illegally). Thursday morning, we weighed anchor at 6:30 AM and headed west. Destination: Tanna, Vanuatu.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

July 22 – August 17th – Home Again, Home Again, Jiggedy Jig! Part 3 (Final Leg - California, August 14 – 17th)

We arrived at LAX, picked up the rental car and were off to Long Beach as fast as we could possibly move.  We held confirmed reservations at Chateau Morning Light!  Yes, our friends, Jaime and Christine Tate were back in the USA. They actually have the boat up for sale, which made this an especially momentous occasion for us to be able to stay aboard with them and to see Morning Light quite possibly for the lat time.  It was wonderful and odd to be on board their boat at a berth in California instead of in an exotic South Pacific seaport.  We talked well into the wee hours yet again, and all fell into bed exhausted.
The next morning we took a stroll down the waterfront to a very popular breakfast spot.  For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the place, but the food was indeed delicious and within 15 minutes of our seating, the place was filled to capacity with a long line of hungry people waiting outside.  After breakfast we took a leisurely walk along the marina area.  It is a charming location and one that offers nearly every amenity one could want.  This is a place I could bring my boat and probably be quite content to nest right in. Finally Frank and I got on the road to San Diego.  Chris and Jaime were planning to follow us down and stay the night at the Kona Kai Marina aboard Dolce, Gisela and Erik Gosch's 2008 version of our IPY 485 – Destiny's younger sister with a dark blue hull.  Our plan was to first head to our hotel to drop off luggage, get checked in and then hit Costco.  Christine and Jaime joined us for our Costco adventure where Frank and I knocked items off our list and piled the basket conservatively, watching the weight and size of every purchase.  At the end of our spree we returned to the hotel to drop off our bounty, agreeing that we would join them for pre-dinner drinks on Dolce where we would also meet up with Sally and Glen of The Dorothy Marie.  We had last seen them in Fiji (last year).  Sally had taken a leave of absence from teaching to spend a few years sailing the South Pacific and was due to return to work this school term, therefore they sailed back to San Diego via Samoa, Hawaii and so on. There is a link to their blog on my page.
Our evening was full of laughter, hugs and tears. We all kept exclaiming how strange it felt to be together here in the USA. Now those three are there with their yachts and we are the only ones still "out there".  We feasted at Miguel's on Point Loma.  This restaurant is famous for many dishes, so I can't really choose just one, but amazingly it is the favorite of us all and a venue we try to hit every time we are anywhere near San Diego.  We parted after dinner telling everyone that we would be at Ricky's for breakfast the next morning if any of them could make it over around 9 AM.  And of course, who can pass up another opportunity to EAT?  We breakfasted with Glen and Sally, Jaime and Christine.  We talked about things that no non-yachtie can possibly understand or care to discuss.  Boat stuff; blocked toilets, watermakers, malfunctioning generators, pumps, engines and electronics, and guests on board which is generally the confounding discussion topic.
Finally we all went separate directions because Frank and I had some serious provisioning to get done.  We hit our favorite places: West Marine, Home Depot, Target, Downwind Marine and several other yacht supply places.  We returned to the hotel periodically to remove packaging, pack a bag and then weigh it before declaring each one full to capacity. When all four check-on bags were filled we looked at our carry-ons and scratched our heads. Oh boy, can we make this work? We always seem to and by the time we finished that night, we realized we had not eaten since breakfast. We threw on some clean clothes and took each other out for a nice dinner to celebrate our Anniversary a little early.  You see our flight departs LAX on August 17th; we will cross the international dateline en route that will take us from the 17th to the 19th in a heartbeat.  The 18th of August is our 9th Anniversary and it will not exist in our world this year.
We awoke on the 17th, and checked out of the hotel quite early because we had last minute items to pick up and then hit the road for LA.  Our flight was scheduled to depart at 10:40 PM, we had arranged to drive back via Long Beach for a final stroll and early dinner with Christine and Jaime.  It was a beautiful day and the perfect ending to our trip back home.  We strolled about charming Long Beach with the Tates and ended our visit eating big, fat juicy hamburgers at a place called Hennessey's.  Frank and I have tried to eat as much Mexican Food and as many really good hamburgers as possible while back home because we know that it will be a long, long time before we get these treats again!
And so we ended our whirlwind trip home with a final goodbye to our sailing friends.  We tumbled and juggled luggage up onto the baggage check-in counter, holding our respective breaths and praying that we made the cut.  Funny thing is our carry-ons did not!  Yes, we are the people impatient passengers see at the check-in counter repacking and unpacking bags, moving items from one to another until finally the exasperated attendant says, "Fine! OK! Just go on!" And that is how we spent our summer vacation.  Fiji here we come!